Henry Carrey Boston,MA . Carey/Kirzhner/Berestyaner , Belous , Isenberg - Lutsk ; Postolov/Herman/Kolovsky-Zhitomir
It is not a " bobe mayse" . The word for a red-head in Yiddish is " a geler " . Gelb is a variation of " gel " which means " yellow," " yellowish " or "ginger", although one can talk about someone having " royte hor ". A blonde is " a blonde" or " blondinke" . I double- checked this with two Yiddish dictionaries .
I first came across this in a comic song " Kalebute " about an old Rabbi , Rov Nute , whose young wife , Trayne Taybl , liked to take long walks in the evenings with the Rabbi's student who is described as having red "peyes". The mystery is how the wife gave birth to a " zun a geler" since she and her husband both had black hair !!.
Now why a red head was called a " geller " and not a " royter " is an interesting question . To me " a royter " would be someone with a ruddy complexion ( or maybe a Communist ! .) I know that in Israel a " gingie " is a redhead , although in English a "ginger cat is really yellow-orange" and "ginger " in Cockney rhyming slang is something else entirely . My best guess is that in different cultures the yellow/orange/red spectrum is described differently . I think I read a Yiddish text describing oranges as " yellow" .( Some oranges are in fact more yellow than orange ) . Before Europeans imported oranges, we maybe never had a word for that reddish/yellow color . In any case , your great grandfather was Velvl der geler or Velvl der gelber ( -er ending on adjective is masculine /-e ending is feminine ) to distinguish him from other Velvl's in Motol or because he was the only red head in the family .
Hope this helps.
Because most Jews did not have surnames in Eastern Europe until the early 19th century and when they did have them , they were used only for government purposes . People called each other by their given names and some kind of modifier . It could be a body description " "Fishke der Krimer " ( Fishl the Lame " ) or refer to a profession or trait , " Tevye de Milkhiker " ( Tevye the Dairyman or Tevye the mild-mannered ) ,or Surke mir di lange hent " ( Sarah with the long hands i.e. a thief ) or even referring to where someone had moved from " Duvid (der) Berliner .
So, Velvl der geler fits right in !
Henry H. Carrey